Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Friends in New England (and birthday)

I spent the last week of July in Boston, Connecticut, and New York, visiting with some of my wonderful friends. Beth and Robert are two of my favorite people "from" Nashville (I knew them first in college), have just gotten back from a year serving at a mission hospital in Angola and are now in Boston. Sherstin, also one of my dearest friends from Nashville, flew up for the weekend, and Robert, Beth, Sherstin, and I had a wonderful time reconnecting. This was taken on a ferry ride in Boston Harbor.
I spent the week down in Connecticut, visiting with more friends and family. My study buddy from medical school, Mark, is starting a fellowship in NYC, so I toodled around the city with him...
He has heard that there are a lot of bad bugs in NYC, and thought some protection would be in order. :)
We also got to hang out with another medical school classmate, Kevin, and Mark's sister.
Fortunately, it was not all errands in NYC - we got to hit the beach. It was a beautiful, blue sky day. Aren't sun glasses fun?
My birthday was the following weekend on Sunday, so I just had a traveling birthday all weekend long! On Friday evening, his parents took us out for a great dinner in Westport. (If you don't have flowers, the one out of the vase on the table will do.)
Me and his mom - she graciously put up with both of us in the house for 5 weeks while we studied for medical boards after 2nd year of medical school.I got to catch up with my cousin Stacia, who is in New Haven. We hadn't gotten to see each other in ages!Then it was back to Boston on Saturday for dinner at my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, and then up to South Hamilton to spend time with my Aunt Jeanie (Stacia's mom). Finally, on Sunday night, a bunch of my dearest college friends gathered for birthday dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Boston. I hadn't seen some of them in ages and it was just a blast to catch up! All in all, a very fun 32nd birthday!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I left Dallas on July 1 to fly back to Atlanta, and then turned around and left on July 2nd for India. My dear friend Aruna got married on July 5, and I had the privilege of getting to attend her wedding in Chennai (Madras). It was absolutely wonderful to be there, and her parents were the most incredible and generous hosts.
Doesn't she look stunning?!

Her hands mehendi'd in preparation for the wedding.Aruna and her groom during one of the many ceremonies that make up a Hindu wedding. All the wreaths around their necks are made out of flowers, weigh a ton, and smell heavenly (jasmine).
Whereas in Western culture a dad walks his daughter down the aisle, here she sits on her father's lap before he gives her away. (The flower chains have multiplied!)The waiting groom!Finally a married woman! After all of the 6+ hrs of ceremony, you've got to feel really married! Aruna had a beautiful outfit made for me to wear - orange is a traditional wedding color.Aruna's dad's boss and his wife came, and I hung out with them for a few days after the wedding. They were absolutely wonderful to spend time with, and I felt like an adopted daughter. The day after the wedding, we went shopping, and dipped our toes in the Bay of Bengal.The next day we caught a plane to Delhi and then drove to Agra to see the Taj Mahal - incidentally on 07/07/07 - the day it was announced one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was spectacular!The requisite picture in front of the the Taj.I made friends with a snake charmer - and got friendly with one of his snakes (defanged)! My new boyfriends, at least one of which is not venomous. :)In hindsight, I really should have taken a ride as the owner was willing, but at that point we were hurrying back to the airport. Oh, well - next time!

Laura's wedding

All of my family was back in the US this summer for my youngest sister's wedding on June 30. Paul and Christy and the kids had come back earlier in the spring, and my mom and dad arrived in early June. We all stayed with extended family in the Dallas area. My parents stayed with my mom's sister Jeri and her husband, who have a wonderful place. I stayed with my cousin Chip (Jeri's son) and his wife Ginny, and their two darlings. I had never gotten to know Ginny before and she's an absolute gem! Here's the happy couple - Greg, and my sister Laura. Aren't they cute?
Me and my cousin Jodi and two of her three kids - Jodi is just a few weeks younger than me and we spent a lot of growing up time together.
The flower girls took their job very seriously! (Jodi's daughter, Ginny's daughter, and my niece)
Greg and Laura with both sets of parents - mine on the left.
Uncle Doug and Aunt Jeanie - I lived with them for a couple months in Japan when I was 20 and they have always been some of my favorite people - it was a total treat to see them again!
My dad and his oldest brother Ted - I usually spend Christmas as their house. Me with my Aunt Gayle - my mom's youngest sister
Me and Grandma - doesn't she look great?!My new brother-in-law with my radiant sister at the reception!

Hanging out with my niece and nephew

I got back to Atlanta on June 10, and on June 14, my sister and brother-in-law came to hang out with me for a week and 1/2 before we jumped in the car and drove to Texas (Friday 4pm to Saturday 7 am) for my youngest sister's wedding. Here are me and my lovely sis, Christy.(If you aren't interested in my family, skip this blog and the next one!)

Christy and her husband Paul - yes, he tries to make up for in height what the rest of us lack!
The rest are absolutely unabashed gratuitous niece and nephew pictures. Jessica is almost 3 1/2 and Casey is 19 months. The last time I saw Jessica, she was not yet a year old, and I had never gotten to meet Casey, so this was very special!!
Cool kids in their shades
Casey driving Aunt Julie's car
Jessica on Father's Day - a budding star!Clowning around at Chuck E CheeseCasey too tired to wake up - even for ice cream!Anything with wheels must be ridden! (I bought him that camo outfit - what are aunts for?)
Jessica as a fairy princess ballerinaYo, you got a problem with that?
In Texas, we stayed with my mom's sister Jeri, who has a little pool that the kids adored. Here is Casey with Grandpa. (Pop)Jessica and Aunt in Julie in the pool - Jessica loves to bounce!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lamu, Kenya

My last weekend in Kenya, I arranged to go to Lamu, a small island just barely off the coast of Kenya. Lamu is an incredibly interesting place - it's one of the places where the Swahili culture and architecture have been preserved. For centuries, there was a thriving trade from India, the Arabian peninsula, and all the way down the coast of Africa in ivory, spices, mangrove poles, and slaves (Arabs were slaving long before Westerners were). Places like Lamu were main stops on that route. Most of the buildings in Lamu date from the 18th and 19th centuries, though there's one left from the 1600s, and there are a couple good museums. Lamu is becoming quite a tourist destination (actually, was back in the early 90s, Michael W. Smith recorded a song that I think was about this island - "Lamu, far away...." Most of the older buildings are being bought up by foreigners and restored using local materials.

Here is Lamu, approaching it from the "dock". Dhows are the most common means of transportation of both goods and people around the island, and people learn to sail as children.
Bigger dhows are used for long trips and transporting goods - a few mulitimillionaires own their own "pleasure dhows" on which they entertain vistors. I got to know a Kenyan of British descent who had spent the last year captaining a very large dhow owned by a Norwegian shipping magnate. He rents the dhow out for $2500 per day, or uses it to entertain guests, who have apparently included the Queen of Norway and Sienna Miller.
A guide came sort of "attached" to my hotel room - picked me up at the airport and accompanied me everywhere from then on, for which I tipped him handsomely. For a girl traveling alone in a touristy place, this was wonderful. Ali Ankol was my introduction to the place and the culture, arranged the activities I wanted to do, fended off "boyfriends", and everyone who wanted to sell me something had to go through him - very nice! Here he is with his two sons. Most of the "roads" on Lamu look like this - narrow little alleyways that do not accomodate cars and are traveled by people, donkeys, and cats.
Ali showed me all around the village - here I am with some particularly cute kids. Lamu is highly Islamic - maybe more mosques per capita than anywhere and women mostly in burkha, though the tourists go around in shorts. People really appreciated that I covered my head - they were surprised to hear that I was American and said I was "well-behaved".
Lamu is famous for its elaborately carved doors. This one was extraordinary. I bought and lugged back with me a beautifully carved trunk. I arranged to take an all day dhow ride across the channel to Manda beach. The weather was just beautiful and the wind was good. And the first mate not hard on the eyes.
The town of Shela is a short distance from Lamu and is a good deal ritzier - most of the real estate is owned by foreigners, but they try to keep the architecture and materials traditional. Shela Beach is very famous.
While the first mate and I went for a walk and a swim, the captain made a terrific lunch of Swahili vegetable stew, salad with a salt and lime juice dressing, and grilled fresh fish rubbed with Swahili spice mix, all of which was delicious. The "grill" is a few sticks laid over some coals, and the fish in the foreground is one I caught. :)
Donkeys are the only non-foot way to get around Lamu and I went for a donkey ride into the interior of the island. They're not a bad ride and reasonably comfortable. In Lamu they say "A man who does not have a donkey, is a donkey " - if you don't have a donkey to carry your stuff around, you carry it around yourself.
The place I stayed at was a beautifully restored old house called simply "Stone House", with a cool shaded courtyard and numerous Escheresque stairways leading to the various rooms. The sign on the doorway out says "Nenda Salama" - "Go in peace" in Swahili.Walking toward the plane at the airport - bye!